Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cooking School: Spaghetti Alla Bolognese

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I love classic pastas dishes. There is something totally satisfying about an Italian pasta dish prepared in the traditional way. When I am in the kitchen preparing such a dish, I try to imagine I am in the midst of a large Italian family. The buzz of the ceiling fan, the background music of cheerful Italian pop, the shouts of the children playing soccer on the cobblestone streets outside, the full bodied aroma of a huge pot of freshly prepared pasta and sauce are all images and sounds that entice my imagination.

One of the most classical pasta dishes has got to be Spaghetti alla Bolognese. It also happens to be the most favorite pasta dish in our household. I like spending time over the bolognese, because after all if prepared with love and care this sauce is really unbeatable.

The bolognese sauce, also known as ragu, is basically a meat based sauce, which originates from the city of Bologna. It incorporates ground beef, chunky vegetables, pancetta, and tomato paste to give a thick delectable sauce. Traditionally, the bolognese was served with fresh flat pasta, similar to the tagliatelle, over the years however spaghetti became the popular pasta dish which was served with this sauce.

The best bolognese I have eaten was, surprisingly not in Italy! It was actually at the Sheraton in Doha, Qatar. The chef was a humorous Swiss guy. I literally grew up on the stuff, when I would dig into a huge plateful of pasta bolognese at least once a week. When I finally got around to training in the kitchen of the Sheraton at the age of 19, I was lucky enough that the Chef was still around. My first day with the chef was memorable. He had me cutting vegetables in the tiniest of cubes for the whole day. I was irritated because all I wanted to do was make that bolognese. The next day he winked at me and put a huge sack of onions and garlic in front of me. I have never cried and cursed so much in my life. On the fourth day, he finally took me under his wing and showed me how to make the prized bolognese.

I have worked on this recipe over the years. Not really changing very much, just a sprinkling here and a hint there. But as I write this recipe for you, I am looking at the old Sheraton Doha letterhead, where I wrote the recipe down that day during my lunch break. And as if it were a seal of approval, there is a huge stain of the bolognese at the bottom.

The bolognese ragu can be varied in several ways. If you do not like beef use ground chicken. Add a handful porcini mushrooms to the sauce for a wonderful earthy flavor. For a vegetarian ragu, I have used vegetarian “ground beef” crumbles made of soya protein. These can be found in almost any grocery or organic stores. Whatever is used the basic method of preparation remains the same. I guarantee you a thick ragu for your pasta that will have you licking the plates clean.


Monthly Mingle 21 - Appetizers & Hors'Doeuvres

Appetizers&Hors'Doevres June 2008 250px The Monthly  Mingle is traveling this month again. This time to sunny California at Mansi's Fun & Food. Mansi has chosen a great theme - Appetizers and Hors'Doeuvres. If you love entertaining then you cannot miss this mingle.

For this monthly mingle, we'd like you to share some fancy vegetarian appetizers. Cook something that's pretty to look at and tasty to bite in, something that looks good on a plate and is irresistible to your guests!

Here's how it works:

1. All entries must be vegetarian (no meat or seafood); eggs and cheese is allowed
2. It can be sweet or savoury, as long as it is petit and crudite, fitting to be an Hors'Doeuvres. Anything that is bite-sized or individual serving-size is acceptable.
3. Entries must be received by June 9th at the latest.


4. Email your

  • your name
  • your location
  • the name of your blog and its url
  • the name of your dish and a link to the relevant post
  • a copy of the main photo of your dish 200px wide

to mansibshah[at]gmail[dot]com
5. Please include a link-back to Mansi's post and/or to this blog to encourage more readers to join in the fun.
6. Feel free to use the logo above
7. Older entries on blogs can be accepted only if they are republished in the month of May with a link-back to this announcement.


Ingredients
Printable version of recipe here.

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2 onions, finely chopped
1 garlic, finely chopped
1 medium sized carrot, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
50g pancetta, finely chopped
3 springs each - thyme, oregano and basil, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
400g ground beef - not too lean or else the ragu will get too dry
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/8 liter stock - vegetable or beef
Salt and pepper
Nutmeg, ground
1 bay leaf
1-2 cloves
425 ml can of tomatoes

Additional:

400g fresh pasta - spaghetti or tagliatelle
40g parmesan cheese, grated


Method

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In a large heavy pan heat the oil and sauté the ground beef, breaking up the beef with a spatula - approx. 5 minutes. Add the pancetta, onions, garlic and vegetables into the pan and continue to sauté for a further few minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Mix in the tomato paste and cook for a minute. Pour in the stock and add the bay leaf, cloves, thyme and canned tomatoes including the juice. Bring everything to a rolling boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Cook pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

Add the basil and oregano to the ragu, which should have nicely thickened by now.

Remove from heat. Put the pasta in a large bowl and pour the ragu over the pasta. Toss well. Serve in deep plates with a good sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Tip:

  • Make a double portion of this ragu and use it to make a scrumptious lasagne.
  • Buying pasta that is a bit rough will help the ragu to coat it well. Look out on the packet for pasta that is formed in copper forms. Pasta produced in such forms is the traditional way pasta is made. Pasta made in plastic forms produces a smoother pasta which causes the sauce to simply slide off.


Verdict

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Nothing could bring bigger smiles all around the dinner table. This sauce has a perfect balance of spices, herbs and vegetables. It's not too tomato-ey but rather chunky.  It's perfect when you have a lot of friends around for game night. I normally make three to four different types of pastas to serve with this sauce for variety. Thanks Chef Z. for teaching me how to make this great ragu. I hope you all enjoy it as much as we do!

More pasta dishes on WFLH:

CaramelizedCherryGnocchi 05
Caramelized Homegrown Tomatoes on Homemade Gnocchi
ShrimpAsparagusPasta01
Pasta with Shrimps and Asparagus
DSC_0020
Spaghetti con gamberetti e rucola




All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

27 comments :

  1. there's just never enough of pasta recipes! looks great Meeta:)

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  2. Meeta.. I'm sure you've heard of this a gazillion times. But you do present very BEAUTIFUL pictures. I'm so jealous!!

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  3. I agree with Mansi, there are not enough pasta recipes :) Reading this post I got transported to a sunny Italian village where food is the best part of the day :) Great post!

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  4. It's wonderful to have a recipe that you work on for years and years, that seems perfect, and yet you still look for ways to improve it.

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  5. The pasta looks soooo tempting....and (sigh!!!)I do not eat meat!
    Its very interesting that you visualize yourself in an Italian kitchen! That shows how full of energy you are when you cook!

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  6. Hi Meeta,

    You always give me options....me being a vegetarian, u have always included ways for people like me to try the veggie version....thats what makes u stand out!!!!will surely try this....me and my daughter are big fans of pastas....This is def included in my list!

    keep doing grt work

    Veda

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  7. I agree - you can't go wrong with a classic pasta recipe!! my favorite :0)

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  8. All dishes look very delicious! I am interested in the food culture of your country. And I support your site. If there is time, please come in my site. From Japan
    http://food-soybean.blogspot.com/

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  9. ciao from Venice.
    I love Bolognese

    welcome to my blog...
    (http://opera.myblog.it)

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  10. Gorgeous!! You are so lucky to have been taught such a treasured recipe by the chef. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and this fabulous recipe with us!!

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  11. This was a classic dish in my house when I was growing up. Just seeing the name brings back warm memories. Thanks, Meeta.

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  12. I think this classic is a favorite in many households, but not everyone takes the time to cook a proper ragu. I love the chunky texture of your ragu....lovely.

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  13. Traditional recipes always win hands down!

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  14. Thank you for all your comments.Hope you all enjoy it the way we do. I have tried all the variations mentioned in the post and each one tastes great so I hope you'll let me know what you thought of it!

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  15. oh that sounds so good. and i am not a big tomato person, but man.
    thank you for this! :)

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  16. Nice looking Spaghetti alla Bolognese! I like the photos! Spaghetti alla Bolognese is one of my favorite dishes as well.

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  17. Great photos...those noodles look perfectly set up!

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  18. Meeta, spaghetti alla bolognese is one of my husband's all time favorite dishes - this would make him drool!!

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  19. Spaghetti bolognese is also very popular in the Philippines. But ours, like our pizzas, tend to be on the sweet side. We add banana catsup, lots of Velveeta cheese and cubed hotdogs to the sauce. It is is truly an acquired taste.

    Your pictures are amazing! When I started food blogging, I thought my photos were crappy because of my camera. I am now using a DSLR and editing my shots via PSP and Photoshop but they are still crappy!!! I think photography is like painting or storytelling. It's a gift, a talent...one you definitely were born with!!! Jealous that's what go-organic states she feels. I cry myself to sleep everytime, filled with self-pity, everytime I visit your site. :)

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  20. Meeta, I LOVE traditional Italian pastas!! I like to add harissa paste to my bolognese for a little spicy kick and a Moroccan twist.
    Your photos are so beautiful!!

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  21. Looks delicious. Is that one garlic bulb or one garlic clove?

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  22. Thanks everyone for your thoughts.

    Lalaine - although your comment cracked me up and blew my head to outrageous proportions, please do not even think like that. It did take a lot of effort and practice on my side to get where I am. But I am by no means as good as you say! And I also believe anyone with a bit of creativity can get there too. So I wish you all the very best in your photography journey!

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  23. Hi Meeta!
    Looove your photos and receipes! For shure I will try this one first.
    Congratulations!
    See ya!

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  24. hey i have been waitin for a good bolognese recipe to woo my husband... u s ee he doesnt like pasta much and he s been conceded to give it a shot the next time i try.. and here it is !! =) though lil problem, i dont use pancetta....can i just leave it out or is there some other non pork substitution that can be made?
    Much thanks in advance!!

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  25. DW - yes you can leave it out completely or sub it with some finely chopped mushrooms. adds a nice flavor to the bolognese!

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  26. I found your recipe today. I have one small question before I make it by myself ...as "garlic" do you mean the whole garlic bulb or just one clove of it? :)

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  27. hi krewetka - i meant 1 clove however you can adjust it to your own taste of course. let me know how you liked it!

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta